coming together

I carry a heavy burden on my heart for the way our world is so fractured and divided these days. I have lived a lot of years, and I do not remember it being like this before – a very clear and determined “us versus them” – with anger, hatred, meanness, and unwillingness to listen to each other prevalent in every sector of our society.

While some segments of our population struggle for equity or validation, others defend their positions or past privilege without any heart willingness to consider a contrasting point of view with an open mind or compassion. We take sides, brother against brother, and spew ugly contempt on anyone who presents a differing story or opinion. 

Every work style preference or personality assessment I’ve ever taken – and I’ve taken a lot – has shown me the obvious truth everyone else is not the same as me. Even the most simplistic assessments usually categorize people into at least four different types.  This tells me that at least 75% of the world may experience any number of life issues from a perspective or preference that greatly differs from mine. Those assessments also tell me that it is important to know myself AND respect others. They remind me that I desperately need other people – who are not like me – to fill my gaps.

What has happened to our respect for others?

What has happened to appreciating differences?

What has happened to human kindness?

Brené Brown addresses the “sorting” that we often do and experience today in her excellent book, “Braving the Wilderness“. She claims that although we desperately desire belonging, we will not find it by picking sides and lobbing grenades of division and defensiveness at each other. As a social work PhD, she is greatly concerned, as I am, by the current status of our world. Thankfully, she does not dwell only in the negative reality, but she also offers some positive alternatives:

“People are hard to hate close up. Lean in.”

Brené explains that as a social species, our greatest strength is not found in “rugged individualism” but rather in our ability to communicate, care, and work together. Connection matters – and it is in getting to know people up close that dispels the generalizations, false stereotypes, suspicions, and fears that drive us apart.

Getting to know each other up close requires honest curiosity about people who are different from me, the courage to step out of my comfort zone, and a willingness to enter into tough conversations. Not always easy to do, but the benefits gained from collective social connections make it worth the effort.

This post only scratches the surface of this topic – Brené presents a deeper perspective in her book. I highly recommend it.

For now, I chose a few action points:

  • Admit when I am no expert on a topic and ask good questions to learn more
  • Intentionally initiate to get to know people who are different from me
  • Actively listen to understand – especially deeper heart issues
  • Speak up about those beliefs I hold strongly
  • Invite others to tell me if they experience me “sorting” people

How have you experienced “sorting” or the “us versus them” mentality? 

How have you attempted to come together with others – especially those who are different from you?

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**You might also enjoy this post, “standing alone” or check out Brené’s website (she offers free reading guides for her books).

standing alone

alone beata-ratuszniak-5430-unsplash

I do not believe in preaching something to others
while not doing that same thing myself.

I’ve written and spoken on “unhurried living”, so I’ve also attempted to live out those truths in my life this year. One way I have done this is to guard a number of reading, reflecting, and/or writing hours each week. This has not been easy for me, but it has been so very worth it, whenever I’ve followed through on this plan.

So far, one of my favorite books to read was Brené Brown’s “Braving the Wilderness”. Brené writes about a couple of topics in this book – all were very challenging and helpful for me.

Brené’s main topic, and the subtitle of the book, is “the quest for true belonging and the courage to stand alone”. She launches the challenge with a quote by Dr. Maya Angelou…

You are only free when you belong no place —
you belong every place–no place at all.
The price is high. The reward is great.

Although this sounds like a paradox, there is deep truth in these words. Brené claims that we can never feel like we fully belong with others until we are willing to stand completely alone (“in the wilderness”). We must learn to individually accept our authentic, vulnerable, and imperfect self so that we do not give in to the pressure to change or hide our true self so others will accept us.

Before we will ever be comfortable with others, we must believe in ourself.

Brené also claims that we connect better with others when we are more courageous with our real self – not going along with gossip, group think, or people pleasing – but risking even loneliness to speak truth and defend what we value most.

If we betray our deepest foundational beliefs to “fit in”, we will always live in fear of being “found out” as an imposter – and rightly so.

We will never experience true belonging when we live as a fake.

Belonging requires bravery and trust that the ONE who made us knew what He was doing – He did not make a mistake – and our ultimate belonging comes from Him.

Brené shares other great messages in her book, and I will write more next week. This week I want to practice true belonging. I am going to do my best to:

  • Give myself grace when I become aware of my weakness, imperfection (my 2018 theme is “embrace imperfection“) or failure
  • Lean in and bravely speak truth instead of going along with others, if I disagree
  • Offer a safe, non-judgmental response to others who offer a differing opinion – hopefully encouraging them to brave the wilderness also

I’d love to hear from you… When do you struggle to accept yourself? How have you learned to “brave the wilderness”? 

learning by doing

Our Keith Webb workshop was so good! I am very grateful for my teammates who facilitated our training with excellence. I want to share two of my highlights with you.

1 – First, the workshop used adult-learning (andragogy) many times everyday. 

I enjoy attending trainings when the facilitator uses adult-learning principles. I also appreciate the opportunity to add some new creative ideas to my toolbox.

Some key adult-learning principles:

  • Honor the knowledge and experience of the audience
  • Allow the adult learners to self-direct their learning by planning – as much as possible – what content to cover
  • Make the workshop task or problem-oriented using realistic and relevant situations rather than content-oriented.
  • Use varied activities for multiple learning styles and information retention.

These are some of the creative adult-learning activities we experienced during the workshop:

  • Personal reflection time to record what we hoped to learn as well as our desired coaching topics before beginning the workshop
  • Practiced coaching in pairs, triads, and speed-rotating around the table
  • Coached on real life issues
  • Reviewed material by teaching it back to our peers
  • Acted out concepts, watched videos, worked in small groups, created metaphors, and asked for feedback to better learn the concepts
  • Summarized the highlights and action steps at the end of each day

2 – Second, the workshop demonstrated that even while stumbling through a new method and making many mistakes, people discovered break-through ideas that were encouraging and hope-filled.

Personally, I considered some of the deeper heart issues behind one of my struggles, cried, laughed, and left the workshop with practical and do-able action steps.

This is the power of coaching. When a coach asks powerful questions, listens with full engagement, helps move the coachee toward action, and trusts God to do the transformational work… great things happen!

How can you integrate some of these adult-learning ideas in your next training / teaching / workshop opportunity?


Again, to learn more about Keith Webb’s coaching model, you can buy the book HERE, read Keith’s blog, or look up one of his workshops via his website HERE. Highly recommended. 🙂

Other posts about Keith Webb’s coaching model: how’s that working for you? and want to be a good coach?

 

want to be a good coach?

Keith Webb's "The Coach Model"

Coaching values the coachee’s past experience, honors their knowledge and
decision-making skills, and fosters their ownership of chosen action steps. 

Keith Webb’s, The Coach Model, offers an excellent process that helps me to focus on coaching rather than talking, and enables me to help the person I’m coaching discover solutions for themselves.. You’ll notice that Webb’s five process steps spell COACH so that it easy for to remember. Here is a quick summary of how it works:

CONNECT — How are you?

A good coach begins the conversation catching up on anything that has been going on since their last time together. This “small talk” helps to build relationship trust and ensures there is no major distraction going on that might sabotage the discussion that day.  An especially difficult situation may require rescheduling the appointment or simply acknowledging the trial may lessen the pressure enough to continue with the conversation.

During the Connect time, a good coach will also ask about action steps. The question, “What progress did you make on your action steps?” positively assumes progress, validates partial completion, and focuses on what worked well. This is also a great time to address any struggle or failures and help the coachee adjust their action steps if necessary.

OUTCOMES — What would you like to work on today?

Once the past action steps have been reviewed, it is time to for the coachee to state their desired outcomes for the meeting. A good coach helps the coachee by asking questions that narrow the topic enough so for progress in the time allotted. Some questions help:

  • Explore: What might be the deeper issues? What do you want to achieve?
  • Clarify: What do you mean by…? Could you give me an example of…?
  • Focus: Which part of the problem would you like to work on today?

AWARENESS — What can you discover about this issue?

Once the coachee settles on a topic, a good coach asks lots of powerful, open-ended, questions to help the coachee reflect, increase perspective, and consider different angles that might be helpful.

A good coach will be careful to ask questions that benefit the coachee. For example, a coach doesn’t need to know all the details of past situations, so questions focus more on what the coachee wants to see in the future.

Tell me about the conflict.
vs
What would excellent resolution of the conflict look like?

COURSE — What will you do this week to move forward?

Now it’s time for action! Once again good questions help the coachee generate a variety of possible action steps, evaluate the options, and then choose the best one(s). Using SMART (Specific,Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely) ensures the coachee confirm the what, how, by when, and with what help details of their actions, increasing the follow-through.

HIGHLIGHTS —  What are your “take-aways” from our conversation?

“We build our brains by repeating things.” Keith Webb

A good coach closes the conversation by asking summary questions for the coachee to review and repeat their newly gained awareness or knowledge and useful or meaningful aspects from the appointment. This helps to embed the learning and give some feedback to the coach also.

If you want to learn more about this process and increase your coaching skills, I highly recommend Keith Webb’s book, The Coach Model. You could also attend one of his workshops. or read his BLOG

I’d love to hear from you… What are your best tips for coaching well?  What process do you use for coaching? 

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You might also like: how’s that working for you?a coaching process you can use, asking powerful questions,  or questions for a destination

how’s that working for you?

Photo by CloudVisual on Unsplash

Some of my worst experiences with people
had to do with me trying to convince someone else of my “great” idea.

In one way or another, I was displaying what Keith Webb calls my “know-it-all-ism”. It was not pretty, and it did not work nearly as well as I hoped it would. It often resulted in high resistance, defensiveness, or hurt feelings – none of which I intended, but I definitely caused that impact. Turns out, telling people what I think they should do doesn’t work very well for me at all.

I am reading Keith Webb’s book, The Coach Model, in preparation for a coaching training I get to attend soon. So far, the basic concepts are not brand new, but they are excellent reminders of key principles and practical helps. They have convicted me in many places and encouraged me in others. Rather than experience this range of emotions alone, I thought I’d share some of them with you!

First, a summary of the symptoms of “know-it-all-ism” – just in case you want to join me in the painful self-awareness process…

Keith explains that there are two types of “know-it-alls” – aggressive and passive:

aggressive know-it-alls:

  • are quick to speak
  • listen – until the other person takes a breath
  • have an answer for everything
  • win arguments, but lose respect

passive know-it-alls:

  • pretend to listen
  • maintain a smug facial expression
  • ask questions that subtly point out why the speaker is wrong
  • internally mock or criticize the speaker

Ouch. I am guilty of both of these.

How about you? Ever act like a know-it-all?

Thankfully, the book offers a better way. Keith Webb defines coaching as:

An ongoing intentional conversation that
empowers a person or group to fully live out God’s calling.

This kind of conversation eliminates the need for me to know it all. It also releases me from the self-imposed responsibility of changing the other person or correcting whatever I feel that person is not handling correctly (yet).

A coaching conversation of this type puts the attention on what God has in mind for the person and allows it to happen in His timing – not mine. There is incredible freedom in this coaching. Keith writes that freedom often feels risky – like accompanying the person on an unknown journey – but at least it will be their journey, rather than mine. I’ll have less control, but I have a feeling that will work out better for both of us.

I’m looking forward to learning more from this book and from the training. I’ll share more in a next post – stay tuned!

what makes you happy?

Photo by Zachary Nelson on Unsplash

I find joy most days and in most situations. I am generally optimistic and look for the best in people. My faith tells me God is good and so are His plans. Even so, sometimes sadness or stress lands heavy on my shoulders.

The other day an article captured my attention. It offered four practical activities, supported by neurology, that will help make us happy. The four actions are not difficult to apply, even if we are not brain researchers, and they are simple yet powerful. I want to share them with you:

1. Ask, “What am I grateful for?

“Gratitude makes us feel better” + “A grateful attitude improves our mood and increases our energy” = TRUTH. Gratitude activates our brain to produce dopamine and serotonin – chemicals that enable us to see rewards and take action to move toward them. As an additional benefit, when we are grateful for something or someone, those chemicals give us a natural “high” which motivates us to feel it again and so repeat the process.

The article also taught me something new:

Even when life is hard and we can’t find anything for our gratitude list…
it doesn’t matter! The simple act of searching has the same effect!

2. Name your negative feelings.

Pretending not to feel bad or suppressing negative emotions does not work to make us feel better, and sometimes has the opposite effect. Even if we can fake it on the outside, our internal limbic system is reacting.

On the other hand, if we voice our feelings, it reduces the amygdala reaction in our brain. Describing our emotions with a word or two helps diffuse the intensity.

We will increase our happiness
when we state how we feel when we are not happy.

**An interesting side note: Labeling is a primary tool used in hostage situations to diffuse negative emotions.

3. Make a decision.

Making decisions also calms the limbic system, reducing stress and worry. We do not have to make a perfect decision – a good enough decision will help. Deciding gives us a sense of control, and feeling in control reduces the stress hormone cortisol… and increases dopamine activity. In addition, if we do something because we “should” or because we “have to”, we do not get the same benefit.

We feel better when we choose to do something that produces a good result
than when something good happens by chance.

4. Touch people.

When we feel rejection in relationships, our brain circuitry reacts the same way it does for physical pain (activating the anterior cingulate and insula). We all need to feel love and acceptance.

Small touches like handshakes and pats on the back release oxytocin which activates pain-killing endorphins. Holding someone’s hand during a medical procedure lowers the discomfort level. Massage also increases dopamine and serotonin activtity. And the more we care for the person, the more their touch helps.

Hugs are powerful.

So there you have it. Four “easy” activities that can make you more happy. 🙂

Which of these activities can you practice today? What else makes you happy?


You might also want to read: got the gratitude attitude? or learning to be thankful

(embrace) imperfection: my word for 2018

dented car adam-griffith-252508

Photo by Adam Griffith on Unsplash

I chose a word last year, but wasn’t writing faithfully, so never put it out there for others to know. That’s not important since a word for the year isn’t chosen to flaunt or compare with others, but rather to help focus attention, effort, and growth for the individual who choses the word.

This year I am back at it. I am sharing my word with you, not to say you should pick a word yourself or to show off mine, but rather because somehow putting it into print gives it a kind of “officialness” – a concreteness for me – maybe even a bit of accountability from the few who read this and know me well enough to ask me about my word during this next year. 🙂

2018: embrace imperfection

Ok, it’s sort of two words, but again, that’s not important. What matters is that I have struggled with perfectionism most of my life. It has caused me to be very critical of myself and others. It causes me to be continually discontent: nothing is ever completely finished, good enough, or all that I would like it to be. It drives me to want more, to do more, to be more. All. The. Time.

im • per • fect: (n.) someone or something characterized by faults or weaknesses that do not necessarily impair its use; not fully formed or complete; still in process

As I have grown, I have learned to temper my perfectionism. With four children, it didn’t take me long to realize a perfect home would never be a reality. My love for them made it not too difficult to value hospitality, community, and other’s learning over picture-perfect decoration and neatness.

At work, valuing teamwork, shared leadership, and coaching new leaders fairly easily took priority over my personal perfectionist tendencies. I care more about encouraging and empowering others than I do about imposing an unrealistic perfection standard.

I know I don’t practice this perfectly (duh!), and I know others don’t always experience the grace I would like them to get from me, so this year I want to focus on embracing my imperfection.

I am convinced that other’s won’t feel that imperfection is OK in them
if I don’t feel that imperfection is OK in me.

I recognize that when I play my tape forward, my internal unrelenting desire for perfection reflects the ridiculous delusion that if I just worked at it hard enough, I could actually get to the place where I never need grace myself. I would never make mistakes. I would never need forgiveness. I would never need help. I wouldn’t need a Savior.

That’s crazy. Perfection will never be my reality. It is not possible. It isn’t even desirable in my heart. I long for community and I long for connection with God and others.

Imperfection enables closeness.

Imperfection does not have to prevent closeness as I often erroneously think it does. Rather than withdrawn from people because I am not handling my thoughts, words, or actions perfectly, I can lean in closer to others and experience their grace and support that encourage my heart and help me grow. Truth is, imperfection makes me more accessible and people have continuously surprised me with their judgment-free acceptance of my imperfection.

This year I want to get better at embracing my imperfections rather than running from them or attempting to hide them. This may be one of the most challenging words I’ve ever chosen. Maybe I will be brave enough to let you know how it’s going as the year goes on.

What are some of those “crazy-makers” that you battle in your heart? 

If you have one, what is your word for 2018?

a tribute to Dad

My Dad is suffering from Parkinson’s and Dementia. It has been so very hard for my family to watch our strong, athletic, intelligent, independent father decline to the place where he needs constant assistance living in a memory care facility. 

It is hard for me to live far away and not be able to help much. It is much harder for my sisters who live nearby to visit and care for him regularly. 

My Dad struggles with some delusions and confusion. He knows who I am still – I am grateful for that – but he cannot consistently remember the day, time, or what he did just a few hours ago. 

On this Father’s Day, I am especially grateful that – years ago – I wrote out a tribute for him. I’m not sure he could understand it today – but He did when I gave it to him. 

I encourage you to write a tribute for your father – especially if he can still appreciate it. He may not be, or have been, a perfect father, but I can tell you that the process of writing and giving him your tribute will be a healing and honoring experience for both of you. 

I am attaching a copy of my tribute as an example for you to get you started. 


How have you honored your father? What are your Father’s Day traditions?

————

Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I send you much love across the miles. Wish I could be with you today, but you are in my heart. ❤️

Leaders Made Here – new book!

Hi All!

Leaders Made HereOne of my favorite authors has put out a new book! Mark Miller writes creatively through story about leadership and character in a way that is immediately useful to readers. Mark’s new book, “Leaders Made Here”, helps us know how to create a leadership culture that supports a leadership pipeline for our organizations. Check it out HERE!

Below is a very practical guest post from Mark for you!

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How to Create Catalytic Meetings

Most meetings are useless. I’m guessing the more meetings you attend the more you’ll agree with that statement. Think about the REAL value of the last five meetings you attended. How much action was initiated or change realized as a result? How can we generate more action as a result of our meetings?

First, let me begin by affirming the value of well-designed and executed meetings. Here’s my vision for meetings…

Meetings are a forum capable of empowering teams and individuals, identifying and solving problems, reinforcing core values, encouraging, affirming, learning, challenging, helping people grow, collaborating, building community, increasing accountability, changing behavior, improving performance and more!

If the meetings you attend don’t do these things, you should work to make it so. But, the truth is, if you can’t use your meetings as a platform to generate productive action, you’ll be wasting tremendous potential.

To create catalytic meetings, here are five ideas guaranteed to make things happen…

  1. Start with the intent to create action. All meetings are not created equal. If you attend a meeting with the purpose of updating people on projects, don’t expect this to create much activity. My recommendation is to focus 75% of your meeting agenda on performance management. Intent is the primary driver of action.
  1. Ensure closure on every agenda item. This may seem obvious – unfortunately it is not. This is not to suggest you will actually finish every item you address. However, you should never conclude your discussion without identifying appropriate next steps. There are infinite options including identifying work to be done outside the meeting or the date on which the team will address the topic again.
  1. Visually display action items during the meeting. This simple step increases accuracy and agreement. Allowing individuals to capture his or her own action items does not provide sufficient visibility for the rest of the team. This is more powerful than you can imagine. A flip chart in every meeting, used to document action items, would revolutionize most businesses.
  1. Be sure you really have an action item. Again, this is basic but often missed. Unless you know WHO is going to do WHAT by WHEN, you do not have an action item. And, to be sure everyone else knows, I recommend reviewing the action items at the end of the meeting, distributing them after the meeting and distributing them again with the agenda for the upcoming meeting.
  1. Review all action items at every meeting. Once an action item is identified, by definition, it must have a completion date. Therefore, it falls to the facilitator to be sure every agenda has a designated time allocated to review previous action items. When the team begins to hold people accountable, you will see more action as a result.

One reason meetings have such a bad rap is a lack of action. If your meetings begin to create positive action, you may be surprised how quickly their reputation will change.

Mark MillerMark Miller is the best-selling author of 6 books, an in-demand speaker and the Vice President of High-Performance Leadership at Chick-fil-A. His latest book, Leaders Made Here, describes how to nurture leaders throughout the organization, from the front lines to the executive ranks and outlines a clear and replicable approach to creating the leadership bench every organization needs. 

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Which of Mark’s books have you read? What have you learned from him?

Additional Resources:

You can register for Mark’s FREE Webinar on March 22 at 1PM ET HERE!

You can also read my posts on some of his other books:

Chess Not Checkers —  The Heart of Leadership — The Secret of Teams

Become a Feedback Guru

feedback photo 2.jpgFeedback is a powerful tool for growth, learning, and life change.

Feedback helps us grow and develop personally, and it helps us focus, change, and/or re-direct our efforts for greater productivity and fruitfulness.

As part of my job, I recently prepared a project called “30 Days of Feedback“. The goal was to help people improve in giving and receiving feedback. Co-workers and friends were encouraged to sign up to receive posts of encouragement, tips, and simple activities they could do to build a culture of feedback at work, on a team, and in their families.

The project was a great learning experience for me. I enjoyed reading books, articles, and blog posts about feedback. I searched for videos to communicate key points. I organized the content into a month schedule and asked for lots of feedback 🙂 from others as the posts took shape. One of my favorite parts of the project was creating the graphic design memes for each day together with my very artistically talented daughter.

feedback memesThe posts covered both how to offer (give) positive feedback and how to invite (receive) constructive feedback from others.

After the 30 days, some of my co-workers asked if we could make the content available all together, so we created an eBook. The eBook will be helpful for those who want to continually review the ideas and practice the tips and activities with others.

I’d like to offer the eBook as a resource to you (click on the photo below)! I hope you will find it helpful. Feel free to pass it along to others also.

30 Days of Feedback COVER

I’d love to hear your feedback on the book! What is something new you learned about feedback?